President Donald Trump escalated his attacks against Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the White House’s top experts on COVID-19, into a full-blown smear campaign on Monday.
CNN reported on a call Trump had with his campaign staffers in which the President complained about those who raised alarm over his enormous, largely mask-free rallies that pose serious risk of spreading COVID-19.
“People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots,” he reportedly said.
Trump called the doctor a “nice guy” who’s “been here for 500 years.”
“Fauci is a disaster,” he said, according to CNN. “If I listened to him, we’d have 500,000 deaths.”
The President welcomed the possibility of his remarks getting leaked to the media, saying that “if there’s a reporter on, you can have it just the way I said it, I couldn’t care less.”
Trump’s remarks track with Fauci telling CBS News correspondent Jon LaPook on Sunday that he has “not been allowed to go on many, many, many shows” when he’s been invited.
Minutes before Trump made the comments during the call, White House spokesperson Alyssa Farah told Fox News, “We’re certainly not trying to stifle [Fauci] sharing important information with the public.”
Later on Monday, the President threw more punches at Fauci via Twitter.
“Dr. Tony Fauci says we don’t allow him to do television, and yet I saw him last night on @60Minutes, and he seems to get more airtime than anybody since the late, great, Bob Hope,” he tweeted. “All I ask of Tony is that he make better decisions.”
Trump also bashed the doctor’s baseball pitching skills and “bad arm,” highlighting once again the President’s resentment over Fauci being invited to throw out the first pitch at a Washington Nationals game in July.
“Tony should stop wearing the Washington Nationals’ Mask for two reasons,” Trump tweeted. “Number one, it is not up to the high standards that he should be exposing. Number two, it keeps reminding me that Tony threw out perhaps the worst first pitch in the history of Baseball!”
The President took a less aggressive tone while discussing Fauci during a press pool at the airport in Phoenix, Arizona.
“I don’t want to hurt him. He’s been there for about 350 years,” Trump said, though he also accused the doctor of making “a lot of bad calls.”
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) came to Fauci’s defense, calling the health official “one of our country’s most distinguished public servants.”
“If more Americans paid attention to his advice, we’d have fewer cases of COVID-19, & it would be safer to go back to school & back to work & out to eat,” Alexander tweeted.